To make the most of our time (and money!) when visiting the Atomium, we decided to couple it with visiting The Plasticarium at the Art + Design Atomium Museum.
Before we headed up to the Atomium, we had a vague idea about the Brussels Design Museum and The Plasticarium. It was only when the man at the ticket booth in the Atomium mentioned that we could get a cheap deal for both with our NUS cards that we decided to go.
I have a very long-standing love of chairs. I did a whole project on them in my A-level art and have since been seeking them out in museums all over the world. Call me weird, but I find the design, history and background of a fundamentally practical object fascinating. But enough of that! We were there for the Plasticarium.
As you walk into the exhibition, you are greeted by the glorious and brightly coloured display of plastic furniture. Immediately you find familiar ones and some that are just out of this world! How I wish I could have had a room full of plastic furniture in my childhood (scrap that! Teen and adult years too!)
And it’s not just about the look of the chairs, it is the history and design that brought them into being. Kind of the first sorts of Ikea really, but in the 1960’s.
The museum is laid out well so that you can see the items together, but also get sneak peeks into the other rooms. There are information posts around in English, so you can make the most of your visit. It might sound a bit strange stating that they have English, but we did visit a few that didn’t. So it is just a note.
Not just chairs
When thinking of plastic home wares, I have a tendency to think of chairs (perhaps because of my weird obsession) but I was reminded in the Plasticarium that the material has brought us a wealth of other items as well. Think computers, kitchen ware, appliances and more. Even TVs are/were predominantly designed and made with a plastic form.
To be honest, we were kind of ‘shopping’ while we were looking around the home wares. We spotted a vintage clock that would suit our lounge (and even found one on eBay too!) But I digress! Plastic as a new form of material for producing products meant that shapes could become more smooth and fluid over the traditional forms and plastic itself lent itself well to modern and often quirky designs. Which you will also experience in the exhibition.
Design for the people
One of the greatest things about the development of plastic production was that it allowed ordinary people, like you and me, to own a piece of designer furniture. I imagine that you will recognise a few of the pieces from family homes or films.
Aesthetic over functionality
I’m all for an aesthetic over functioning chair and loved the part of the exhibition were I got to see (in real life!) some of the chairs and seats that I had studied in that project I mentioned. From plinth tops, to stone mats, they had a great selection. I was a little disappointed to not see a few of the more iconic ones, but they probably weren’t linked to Belgium design.
The exhibition has a vast array of designs and styles so you will be kept entertained for a good amount of time. We were there for around an hour so had enough time to enjoy the space.
The Art + Design Atomium Museum isn’t just about the Plasticarium either. Although this was our main focus on our trip as we have a love for the 60’s/70’s style. Further to the back of the museum you will be able to discover more about traditional design. It is equally well laid out and you will find out more snippets of information too. This part leans more towards the craftmanship and earlier innovations in furniture and product design.
I would definitely recommend that you take a visit to the Art + Design Atomium Museum and particularly the Plasticarium as it is a fantastic space filled with lots of classic and interesting design pieces. The dual ticket with the Atomium means that you can make the most of your visit. Especially if you’re into your retro design, like we are.
Although plastic certainly has a bad name – generally in the single use market (see Refill Manchester) – the design of the furniture shared in the museum was predominantly for style, longevity, stability and could even be melted down and reformed for use in other home wares. Seeing how long these pieces have lasted and the price they get in antiques places, they certainly have long life in mind.
Also, I forgot to mention that there are also lockers here and the staff are happy to keep an eye on your bag behind the desk if it is on the large size (like ours are!)
Oh and if you were wondering, we’re still on the hunt for the right price for a vintage digital clock…
Are you a fan of the Plasticarium? A fan of retro plastic furniture design? …know where we can get a vintage clock?
Let me know in the comments below.